Millwall not expecting Arsenal defender and ex-Blackpool loanee to return

Millwall boss Gary Rowett is not expecting former Blackpool loanee Dan Ballard to return to The Den next season.

Monday, 9th May 2022, 10:39 am

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Bumper gallery of fan pictures from Blackpool's final game of the season

The 22-year-old has made 33 appearances for Millwall this season as Rowett’s side narrowly missed out on the Championship play-offs.

The Arsenal man had previously helped Blackpool win promotion from League One last season and had been linked with a return to Bloomfield Road - but opted to remain in the capital instead and join Millwall.

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Now Ballard’s loan spell has come to an end, Rowett has suggested the Gunners will look to send their centre-back elsewhere next term.

“It’s really simple with Dan,” he told South London Press.

“He’s done really well. If Dan was available again we would certainly welcome him back.

“But I don’t expect he will be [coming back to Millwall] because I think Arsenal will probably seek a different type of challenge for him. It’s what those type of clubs tend to do.

Ballard in action against the Seasiders for Millwall earlier in the season

“He’s had a good season in the Championship. Will they look for something else? I don’t know.

“We’ve got Lenny [Ryan Leonard] who is coming back in and it would have been nice to see him fit this season. If he was then we might not have needed to recruit in that area. We’ve got George Evans as well in that area who has had limited game time but performed really well in those positions.

Alex Mitchell is coming back and he did so well [on loan] at Leyton Orient. I think we’ve got players to fill those roles.”

Ballard’s season has been disrupted a little by injuries, including knee surgery, which prevented the Northern Ireland international from getting even more game time.

The defender will inevitably be in high demand this summer should his parent club Arsenal wish to send him out on loan for a fourth consecutive season - as he had a brief stint with Swindon Town in 2019/20 cut short by the pandemic.

Ballard’s contract situation at the Emirates has not been made public, but it was reported in November of last year that the Gunners were keen to extend his stay in North London until 2024.